It’s Not Just My Zodiac Sign: Making Sense of Cancer and Moving On
“Cancer is a word, not a sentence.” –John Diamond
Cancer. It’s one of the most terrifying, mysterious words in the English vocabulary. They say it will affect one in three people. It’s one of the most popular plotlines in Hollywood, and we all know someone who has lost a grandparent or furry friend to the disease. It’s a word you never want to hear, regardless of your age. I was 13 years old when I heard it. The first doctor to take me seriously (unfortunately the third doctor I’d seen about the hard lump above my collarbone) called my mom to tell her from his cell phone on a Friday night. Never good news. The biopsy gave us a definitive answer: Hodgkin’s Lymphoma. It had spread through my neck, chest, and abdomen. But it could have been much worse, this isn’t a sad story. I had a 90% chance of survival with six months of chemotherapy and three months of radiation. I’m one of the lucky ones. Hodgkin’s is considered to be one of the “best cancers” to get (an irony that is not lost on me).
My thirteenth year held a lot of pain and exhaustion, and left me with some emotional scars. I missed most of eighth grade, had to put a pause on my acting “career” (kids can dream, right?), and most of my friends were nowhere to be found—needless to say the experience wreaked some serious havoc on my self-esteem. But, I don’t regret my experience. I know that everyone has hardships that come their way, and mine just happened to be teenage cancer (or childhood cancer, as they like to call it, I just know that my 13-year-old self would have groaned at being called a “child”).
It’s been nine years since I won my battle with lymphoma—I had my last chemotherapy treatment nine years ago this week—which is cause for both celebration and reflection.
I’m now a happy college graduate, with a renewed clean bill of health and a full head of hair. In the past nine years, I’ve met other amazing individuals who have survived cancer, and some who have lost their battles. These shared experiences remind me of my good fortune.
Which is why after nearly a decade of trying to make sense of my cancer and what it means in my life, I’m finally starting to span it out. I can’t ignore my health or take for granted my physical abilities, there’s no longer time to just go through the motions of daily life. I’ve been given a second chance at life, and it’s about time I seize it.
And what better way to start than by joining Stonewear Designs at the HERA Foundation’s Climb4Life event in Boulder, June 23? Follow me as I try my hand (and arms and shoulders) at rock climbing, and join me in my efforts to greet every day with gratitude and resilience. After all, hopefully we all have reason to do so, and this day we can do so together!
By Eve Hersh
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